Colmar in Alsace is irresistibly pretty. The old town is brimming with wonky ancient buildings. The gentle river is perfect for boat rides. Flower bedecked streets and squares vie for your attention. There are museums galore as well as outstanding bars and restaurants. You’ll find something to please just about everyone in this photogenic city…
Colmar’s historic old quarter
Colmar’s old town quarter is crossed by cobbled streets lined with half timbered houses and renaissance manor houses decorated with flowers. To the South of the town centre, where the Lauch River diverges from its canal, is where tanners, winemakers and fishmongers used to make their homes and ply their trades. The river is crossed by two bridges from which there are wonderful views across to rows of half-timbered houses. Pop into Colmar’s old covered market for regional products. And take a boat trip to get great views of the city.
Home to the designer of the Statue of Liberty
Musée Bartholdi is dedicated to sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and is located in his former home. He is famous for designing the Statue of Liberty. He also created the monumental Lion of Belfort as well as the statue of Vercongetorix in Clermont-Ferrand, two of France’s most popular emblems.
You can see more of his sculptures around Colmar, including the Schwendi Fountain. It’s topped by Bartholdi’s statue of Austrian Holy Roman Empire commander, Lazarus von Schwendi holding vines in his right hand. Schwendi ruled in the 16th century from the Chateau du Hohlandsbourg a few miles to the west of the city. Legend has it that he brought the pinot gris wine grape to Alsace.
What to see in Colmar
In a city brimming with fairytale pretty houses, Maison Pfister is a knockout. Constructed in 1537, for wealthy hat-maker Ludwig Schurer it manages to be quaintly cute and gorgeously grand at the same time. The Renaissance architecture is wonderfully preserved with 16th-century frescoes in muted colours, and medallions on the facade. The turreted spiral stairway and wooden gallery on the third floor are magnificent.
The Maison des Têtes – the house of heads – is tucked between two quite ordinary French houses. It’s a manor house that takes its name from the 106 carved stone heads on its facade. Originally built for Anton Burger, a rich merchant who was also Mayor of Colmar at the start of the 17th century. At the top is a statued called the Tonnelier de Colmar, a city symbol representing a cooper, maker of barrels. It was designed by Bartholdi and placed there in 1902.
Opposite the House of Heads, pop into the quirky Hansi Museum. Discover the art of ‘Uncle’ Hansi, with a pretty reconstruction of an Alsatian village and artwork by Jean-Jacques Waltz, known as Hansi, famous for his depictions of old Alsace.
Toys and Museums
If you’re a toy fan then head to Colmar’s former cinema. It’s now a museum of toys and models from every era since the 1800’s. Channel your inner nostalgia with a range of video game consoles from the 80’s and 90’s. There are meccano buildings, Barbie dolls, Lego sets and robots. On the upper floor is a whopping great working model railway network. It covers 120 square metres. (If you’re a fan of model railways and trains, then don’t miss the Train Museum at Mulhouse, around 35 mins drive from Colmar).
A stunning 13th century Dominican convent is home to one of France’s best regional museums – the Unterlinden Museum. An incredible collection which features seven millennia’s worth of history including art from the late-gothic and renaissance eras. There’s also a Gallo-Roman mosaic, Romanesque capitals, paintings by Picasso, Renoir and Monet, engravings by Albrecht Durer, and a stunning 17th-century painted harpsichord. Don’t miss the museum’s Schongauer Café which is in the former swimming pool building built in 1906.
The wine route
Alsace has one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. Tucked away in the east of France, on the border with Germany, the vineyards produce fabulous wines. The Alsatian Wine Route is 170 kilometres long and flows through picturesque villages, castles and glorious countryside. Discover the wine culture, meet the wine-growers, visit the caves and taste some of the finest Rieslings ever made.
More on Alsace
What to see and do in Petite France Strasbourg The old district of Strasbourg is utterly fabulous.
Riquewihr in photos – the pretty little town on the Alsace wine route is stupendously lovely…